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Design at the End of the Food System: Hybrid Foodscapes in the Realm of Consumption

Authors:

Abstract

This chapter considers our changing contemporary food systems through a spatial design lens focused on the realm of urban consumption. On the one hand, it highlights how ongoing shifts - in our social structures, rapid digitalisation and increasing environmental vulnerability - inevitably shape our built environment and its utilisation - and thereby, also specifically shape our foodscapes. Building on this understanding, this author argues for challenging our rigid presumptions about the familiar physical forms, models and spatial typologies that constitute our foodscapes, and suggests actively re-imagining the spatial structures and infrastructures of food - from housing to hospitality - in service of accommodating desirable changes in urban food consumption. If redesigning the food environment can help facilitate sustainable urban food systems, then it is worth elaborating, what exactly desirable foodscapes mean in practice, or more specifically, what they mean in urban, spatial and design practice.
Accepted Author Manuscript. The final version will be available in A Research Agenda for Food Systems edited by Colin
Sage, forthcoming 2022 October, Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd. The material cannot be used for any other purpose without
further permission of the publisher, and is for private use only.
Design at the End of the Food System:
Hybrid Foodscapes in the Realm of Consumption
Kata Fodor
Abstract
This chapter considers our changing contemporary food systems through a spatial design lens focused
on the realm of urban consumption. On the one hand, it highlights how ongoing shifts - in our social
structures, rapid digitalisation and increasing environmental vulnerability - inevitably shape our built
environment and its utilisation - and thereby, also specifically shape our foodscapes. Building on this
understanding, this author argues for challenging our rigid presumptions about the familiar physical
forms, models and spatial typologies that constitute our foodscapes, and suggests actively re-imagining
the spatial structures and infrastructures of food from housing to hospitality in service of
accommodating desirable changes in urban food consumption. If redesigning the food environment can
help facilitate sustainable urban food systems, then it is worth elaborating, what exactly desirable
foodscapes mean in practice, or more specifically, what they mean in urban, spatial and design practice.
Keywords: (hybrid) foodscapes, food environment, feeding cities, foodtech, kitchen design
Introduction: The Kitchen - A Provocation
One remarkable 2021 television and YouTube advertisement spot for an online meal delivery brand,
Foodora
1
, depicts a mundane situation: a young blonde couple (carrying their child) are shown around
a sleek urban apartment by a real-estate agent. As they walk into the kitchen, the agent routinely says
‘…and this is the kitchen’. The scene here cuts to the couple, who in reaction, now appear completely
puzzled. After a moment of silent bafflement, the woman asks back ‘Kitchen?!’- having clearly no idea
what this specific room is supposed to be for, or even what that word ‘kitchen’ might mean. The skit
ends there, and we see the familiar logo of the meal delivery brand pop up. The message, of course, is
as simple as it is provocative: online meal delivery service has made life so convenient for its users, that
it renders the - idea/functionality of a kitchen as a basic component of one’s home, simply obsolete.
Inevitably, this ad hits a nerve for a range of different audiences. Firstly, it ridicules traditionalist ideas
about the home and domestic life, challenging the old adage that the kitchen is the heart of the home.
Secondly, it mocks the ignorance of millennials and their hopeless reliance on smartphone apps. And
thirdly, the native, white, middleclass and heteronormative family life, large city apartment and sleek
kitchen, which are all shown in the ad, are not necessarily an existing combination of real-life
circumstances, let alone options, for a large segment of the meal delivery app’s actual users, thereby
perhaps provoking yet another kind of subtle frustration with the fictional scene. In effect, the ad
becomes memorable, independent of which specific interpretation of its subtext is assumed.
1
This 2021 ad spot was produced for the Finnish market of Foodora a German-founded brand, currently operating across
the Nordics. See the ad here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yqus4oRIV4
The idea/prediction of ‘the kitchen’ becoming obsolete is nothing new however, and online meal
delivery is merely the latest culprit hailed to bring about the ‘death of the kitchen’ (e.g. Q Series, UBS
Evidence Lab 2018). Previously, utopian socialists and material feminists of past centuries have long
argued for moving the kitchen and domestic labour associated with it out of the private into the larger
community’s realm (Hayden 1979, Hayden 1982). Moreover, removing this basic food function from the
home, by rendering it superfluous, has always been one frontier of lucrative residential real-estate
ventures in dense urban areas (e.g. McKinley 2012, Boffey 2017, Sullivan 2021). In these cases, the focus
is typically more on relieving an already tight private unit a room, bedsit, studio apartment or micro
apartment, etc. - of the spatial, infrastructural and cost burdens a kitchen would entail. The function is
then either delegated to the surrounding city, and the available food outlets it offers (Fodor 2021), or is
concentrated into shared or centralised service facilities. In contrast, as Hayden thoroughly presents it
in The Grand Domestic Revolution (1982), the material feminists were more concerned about how
exactly the question would be resolved and the labour distributed and organised anew. In short, there
are multiple contrasting angles to approach the same question about the future of the kitchen:
reorganising social dynamics and gender roles, exploring/exploiting new technological and market
opportunities, for cost and resource optimisation in housing, and alternatively, for sustainability
initiatives, community building and mutual aid. However, looking past the vast array of ideologies
associated with these varied approaches, three major factors are revealed to render a renewed
speculation about the future of the kitchen more relevant today than ever before: digitalisation,
increasing environmental vulnerability, and social change. While a more detailed elaboration on each of
these factors is to follow later, the ultimate purpose of this chapter is to challenge our typically rigid
presumptions about the familiar physical forms, models and spatial typologies that constitute our
foodscapes. By revisiting the above question, the chapter aims to emphasize the importance and
timeliness of actively re-imagining the spatial structures and infrastructures of food from housing to
hospitality in service of accommodating desirable changes in urban food consumption. Moreover, if
we assume that redesigning the food environment can help facilitate sustainable urban food systems,
then it is worth further elaborating, what exactly desirable foodscapes mean in practice, or more
specifically, what they mean in urban, spatial and design practice. This chapter shall consider these
questions and reflect on the ways these affect the food system itself.
The Shift to Feeding Heterogeneous Urban Societies in the 21st Century
To consider the possible demise of the kitchen, it is important to first summarise what the model actually
is, in terms of design. The conventional/traditional model of this room largely follows the ‘Frankfurt
kitchen’ design by Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, dating back to 1926-27. Her ingenious plan organised
and optimised the kitchen in a way that was fully focused on the internal dynamics of that space, as
tailor-made to the typical household of a German family from a hundred years ago. In terms of its food
provisioning, that meant a 5-6-member extended family, where one person was a fulltime housewife,
another a ‘breadwinner’, while the rest (children and elderly) could provide occasional helping hands,
as well as company for sharing meals, also subtly assuring the transfer of food customs, know-how and
tradition over time. In short, the model of this kitchen is inseparable from that of the traditional nuclear
family itself. (Fodor 2018) The at the time fashionable principles of ‘scientific management’ were so
carefully applied to the design of this space, it made the kitchen optimal for exactly that social
arrangement. What could epitomise this better, than the idea of the ‘kitchen work triangle’, that is the
‘appropriate’ spatial relationship between cook top, sink and refrigerator, as the key nodes in the
everyday processes undertaken by the housewife (Pohl, Puigjaner and Nájera 2012). Inevitably, what
follows however, is that deviating from that traditional model of the nuclear family thus also
compromises the very design functionality/aptness of its kitchen. Thus, the question that follows is how
we can rethink that design itself to better accommodate the shifted task of feeding our far more
heterogeneous urban societies.
I. Social & Demographic Change
Returning to the above listed three key factors affecting the role of the kitchen digitalisation, increasing
environmental vulnerability, and social change we will see, that each of these developments encourage
a shift of focus from the above detailed internal/family logic of the home kitchen, further out into the
larger infrastructural, service and social connections of the urban environment. Most obviously, the
model of the nuclear family itself has become far less dominant: the average household size has been
steadily decreasing in most urban regions of the affluent Western world, to the point where single/one-
person households now in some areas even outnumber them. (Klinenberg 2013, Københavns Kommune
2013, Housing In London 2015, Tervo and Hirvonen 2020)
Simultaneously, gender roles have changed significantly, with far more women participating in the paid
labour force (hence also fewer full-time housewives), while men’s share of household chores has also
increased somewhat (Dotti Sani 2014). But whether we observe the modern family household or the
increasing segment of its alternatives, their housekeeping and food provisioning practices
correspondingly have become far more diverse and complexly negotiated in our more globalised and
heterogeneous urban societies. The mere prevalence of one-person households (of any gender, and with
longer life-spans, also more elderly people) in itself calls for revisiting the ideas of feminist collective
housekeeping traditions, since in a way, the same issues that used to have a strong emphasis on gender
have thus become far more universal practical human concerns. What were once considered women’s
issues, are to some degree becoming every person’s practical challenges, when living alone.
II. Technological Development and Digitalisation
The unprecedented technological development since the onset of the Frankfurt kitchen model, has not
only brought about improved home appliances easing food preparation and storage inside the kitchen,
but by changing the transport, preservation, and preparation of food, it also reshaped our food retail
environments and our global food systems at large. The food items reaching our kitchens today -
whether they are ready meals, consumer packaged goods or raw groceries - have far more complex
supply chains in terms of both processing and organisation, as well as geography, seasonality and
logistics. But we are yet to recognise the full extent to which digitalisation transforms the role of our
home kitchens, and the exact new purposes they will serve within the larger changed context. In
particular, the ways in which this technological boom increasingly ties together the private domestic
space of our homes, with the often hidden, automated, black box architectures and remote operations
of dark kitchens, courier services, (semi)automated warehouses, and even data centres - in nearby urban
pockets and in far-removed globally connected remote locations. IoT (the Internet of things), ‘smart
appliances’, on-demand online grocery and meal delivery services, are just a few of the latest
technologies that already demonstrated their capacity to create entirely novel spatial logics around food
practices, reorganising how our spaces must correspond to the various stages along food provisioning -
food purchasing decisions, financial transactions and the organisation of the related logistical tasks, as
well as how our relationships with the people involved in producing and supplying much of our food,
groceries and meals, get mediated (Fodor 2021). Indeed, ever since the venture-capital-funded giant
‘sharing economy’ enterprises, Airbnb and Uber transformed their respective industries, there has been
a tense/excited expectation - especially among investors and entrepreneurs - that some kind of
equivalent must soon come to sweep the world of food consumption too. Would it take the form of
people sharing their kitchens with strangers? Of home cooks preparing and selling food to their
neighbours on demand? For years, plenty of experimental enterprises (such as Josephine, EathWith or
Restaurant Day)
2
have kept betting on versions of these P2P (peer-to-peer) ideas, none of which so far
have come close to anything remarkable in terms of their success, ability to scale or maintain a stable
flow of interest from their users. Presumably, the failure of such enterprises - beyond their ability to
secure venture capital investment - is connected to how rigidly bound food is to the specific spatial pre-
conditions and relations around it. That is to say, a new digital platform around food can hardly change
its ecosystem, without the insertion of new material/spatial/infrastructural elements. A case in point is
exactly the relative success of online meal delivery services, which not only provide access to aggregated
platforms of all available take-away options at once, but directly take on and ‘optimise’ the burden of
delivery tasks, thus creating new logistical avenues/arrangements. And increasingly, not just through
their fleet of flexible gig economy couriers, but ever more full dark kitchen operations. Similarly, the
latest on-demand grocery businesses
3
offering groceries often within 10 minutes, operate from
strategically located mini urban storage units to be able to offer a selection of locally popular items at
unprecedented speed and convenience to their customers in dense urban areas. While such platforms
are often branded as immaterial digital technologies, it is the heavily material and costly logistical setups
(of spaces, transport vehicles, and workers) coordinated by those, that actually create the new
irresistible conveniences. Overall, the various frontiers of the sharing economy applied to urban food
consumption include the niches of instantaneous communication channels (such as for surplus food
redistribution, e.g., Olio, Karma, TooGoodToGo, ResQ
4
), outsourcing the logistical efforts of getting both
groceries and cooked meals (as detailed before), and SaaS (software-as-a-service) coming to the kitchen
in the form of smart gadgets (appliance-as-a-service) and new fremium and subscription/rental models
applied to home appliances (such as pay-per-use solutions by Homie
5
). The common thread is the
much-discussed move away from simple ownership toward services and access. While the positive
potential of that idea persists, since the predominant optimism from the early onset of the age of
‘collaborative consumption’, this same shift has revealed itself as far more complex (Martin 2016) and
riddled with pitfalls, yet to be resolved (e.g., Morrison 2021, Song 2021).
III. Growing Environmental Vulnerability
The third factor pressing for re-thinking the design of our kitchens and broader food environments, is
our growing environmental vulnerability. One desirable aspect of a promised ‘age of access’ was going
to be its potential to reduce our environmental footprint: the idea of optimising our resource use by
making use of things underutilised. In other words, owning less individually but having more intensity of
use together. ICTs (information and communications technologies) would mediate that sharing with
hitherto unimaginable ease and convenience, creating trust and accountability between neighbours and
strangers. Moreover, our ever-changing needs in life (for variety) were to be flexibly satisfied without
the endless pursuit of consumerist material possessions, or even compromises on quality. Nevertheless,
these idealistic aspirations (Martin 2016) of the sharing economy remain just as relevant today, perhaps
even more, as we gain a deeper understanding of the new problems that often arise (Schor 2014) with
its uncontrolled, commercially driven iterations (e.g. exploitation of unprotected workers, ‘forced’
participation, the ‘commodification of everything’, venture capital etc.). In fact, the comfortable
lifestyles that have become available to an unprecedentedly large subset of Western urban populations,
are hardly thinkable to maintain, let alone extend to more people in the future, without finding effective
See more about how they failed or pivoted away at https://thespoon.tech/josephine-a-sharing-economy-marketplace-for-
home-cooking-shuts-down/ , https://www.eatwith.com/, https://www.facebook.com/RestaurantDayFinland/
3
As of 2021, examples include companies such as Gorillas, Zapp, Getir or Weezy (https://gorillas.io, https://tryzapp.com,
https://getir.com/, https://weezy.co.uk )
4
See more at https://olioex.com, https://www.karma.life, https://toogoodtogo.org, https://www.resq-club.com
5
See more at https://www.homiepayperuse.com/en
ways to indeed ‘do more with less’, considering the devastating environmental consequences this
comfort has traditionally entailed. Undoubtedly, the way Schor (2014, p.2) describes the activities of the
sharing economy as “recirculation of goods, increased utilization of durable assets, exchange of services
and sharing of productive assets could not be more relevant for this challenge ahead. Beyond that, and
more specifically to our urban food consumption, the design brief is the following in simplified, idealistic
terms: First, we would collectively have to do less further damage, in terms of emissions, non-
renewables, waste and pollution and biodiversity loss caused as a consequence of our diets and food
practices. In other words, eliminating/minimising the above as much as possible, while maximising the
utility/joy of what will inevitably remain of it. Moreover, we would find ways to make the most of what
is still available and relatively sustainable renewable energy and resources, durable, reusable or
compostable material goods, and an assumed general shift toward more sustainably composed diets.
Lastly, we would engage in/accommodate restorative practices for ecosystem (soil, water, air) and
societal health, cultural preservation (technical know-how, education, community engagement) and
innovation for building more resilience to the inevitable series of shocks yet to come. While such an
idealistic agenda may sound far too simplistic from an academic or policy perspective, it is an essential
tool from a design perspective. It helps us envision new realities, which rather than resolve all relevant
questions separately, instead provide synthesis in practice - ideally, at an optimal intersection of multiple
contending considerations. Such an approach can be particularly instrumental when attempting to apply
learnings as complex as the multi-criteria analysis of sustainable diets argued for by Lang (2021).
Designing Foodscapes
Further related to the multi-criteria analysis of sustainable diets, several established and experimental
modes of analysis hold relevant learnings to design about the study of specific food environments.
Firstly, the 'food system approach’ has the capacity to consider complexity far beyond LCA (life cycle
analysis) approaches. While as a consequence it presents the inevitable challenges of setting system
boundaries, it can help identify opportunities for improvement, as it draws attention to how
activities/actors interact, the natural resources used, as well as on impacts and outcomes (Westhoek et
al. 2014) Furthermore, practice extended MFA (material flow analysis) attempts to combine ‘material
flow analysiswith ‘social practice theory’. The strength of this novel experimental approach is that it
can be applied on multiple spatial, organisational and temporal scales, as it focuses on the notion of
activity, as well as the stocks, flows and processes of energy and materials that are involved in fulfilling
a specific human need (Leray, Sahakian, and Erkman 2016). Similarly again, reverse LCA approaches also
focus on needs rather than products as their starting point, in order to find alternative innovative
systems of products and services that can then fulfil that need (Wangel 2018). However, how do these
matters apply more directly to the related questions of design?
While the term foodscape has no single definitive meaning (yet), its increasing use across academia,
policy and practice suggests that this elusive word captures something vague yet relevant that other
more technical terms (such as ‘food environment’) do not encompass. According to the review study by
Vonthron, Perrin and Soulard (2020), in the use of the term beyond tangible spatial characteristics, there
are significant sociocultural, behavioural and systemic approaches increasingly taken into consideration
when analysing people’s subjective/individual food realities. In spatial terms, it is both multi-scalar (from
the micro to the global, i.e., packaging/presentation, furniture, room, urban setting, regional and global
supply chains) and dynamic. As MacKendrick (2014) explains the foodscape is never fixed; its boundaries
shift depending on how the food environment expands and contracts.It follows, that foodscapes are
also dynamic over time (such as changing with the opening hours of food outlets or one’s mobility
options). Moreover, they encompass the non-material environment, e.g., digital media, which
coincidentally also becomes increasingly personalised
6
, the sociocultural environment (specific
traditions, norms, social signalling, mental models and aspirations), as well as the policy environment
and economic circumstances. How the theoretically/physically available components of the food
environment are practically accessible to people, is thus an incredibly complex enmeshment of all these
factors. Yet, the concept of foodscapes appears to adequately capture this in-flux, hybrid, and multi-
scalar configuration, that is necessarily rendered through an individual’s personal momentary
circumstances. It thus follows, that there might be as many different foodscapes as there are people,
and even those innumerable foodscapes are in constant change over time. This complexity entailed in
‘foodscapes’ is highly challenging for design to address, yet it helps us avoid the dangers of solving the
wrong technical questions that could easily result from oversimplification and generalisation. Thus, if
the aim remains - as this chapter set out - to facilitate sustainable diets, then one main challenge is that
the re-design of foodscapes must happen on a large scale, even though our foodscapes significantly
differ from one another’s to begin with.
Three of the most evident ways/approaches how this apparent contradiction could be resolved are:
firstly, through direct spatial/urban means of redistribution (provision of public space, institutions &
infrastructure, as well as affordable mobility & housing), as these are tools which help secure more
widespread/universal access and lower barriers to more sustainable diets and food practices (such as
having access to adequate food retail options, cooking facilities, the necessary space to sit down for
meals, to store food safely or to sort waste). Secondly, through design (as visions, imaginaries and
prototypes) we can shape people’s subjectivities. For it is not only that the living environments we
construct shape our subjectivities (including our political subjectivity) as David Harvey’s work argues
(2008). But that the reverse is true as well. As The Buell Hypothesis (Martin, Meisterlin, and Kenoff 2011)
suggests - drawing similarly to Harvey on the example of the relationship between the ‘American dream’
and suburban housing. They argue that the way to change the city, is by changing the ‘dream’, that is,
by changing/re-imagining the narratives guiding it. And thirdly, upon acknowledging that the foodscapes
of people vary from one person to the next, as well as hour by hour, effective solutions will likely address
correspondingly the inevitable diversity of needs. One size fits all approaches (e.g., 6-sqm fitted
Frankfurt kitchens installed into each new apartment unit as is a typical legal requirement in
contemporary housing developments) are unlikely to be effective in heterogeneous urban societies, as
opposed to the simultaneous provision of a range of varied accessible options (e.g., the way car sharing
services provide a fleet of different cars to best accommodate their users’ ever-changing needs).
Hybridity appears to be one of the key attributes of the above described contemporary urban
foodscapes. They are hybrid in the sense that they exist as the enmeshments of physical/material and
virtual/media realities, as well as socio-economic circumstances and mental models the specific
constellation of which varies individually and temporally. But our foodscapes are also hybrid in another
sense, that they cross spatial and organisational domains (Fodor 2021) The way how our domestic
environments increasingly accommodate retail functions via digital services, such as online grocery
shopping is an illustrative example of this. And lastly, our foodscapes can be hybrid in yet a third crucially
important sense: in enabling a fluidity of various access/control conditions. Let us now elaborate on this
issue in more detail. In terms of their organisational design setup, food spaces traditionally fall into one
of three categories: individual (e.g., one’s own kitchen at home), shared (e.g., a kitchen used by several
tenants in a house-share), or top-down institutionally choreographed (such as canteens, restaurants, or
supermarkets are). From the individual through the shared to the institutional, each type possesses
unique advantages (as well as disadvantages) over the others. Hybridity across these categories would
thus encompass collaborative/cooperative organisational and design solutions, that are neither purely
6
as we move away from fixed radio and tv channels toward algorithmic on-demand content, advertisements and
information bubbles
individual, nor collective/communal, but instead exploit the upsides of both while minimising their
drawbacks.
A small kitchen in a one-person household is the most iconic example of an atomised/individual food
space. Such a space provides autonomy, independence, comfort, safety from the germs of strangers, but
comes with the potential burdens of increased social isolation (often described as depressing), inevitable
resource intensity, expensiveness (or often unaffordability) and full ownership of the related
maintenance, costs and responsibilities. On the other end of the spectrum, institutional food spaces,
such as a school canteen are convenient to use, affordable and highly resource efficient (economies of
scale). They typically rely on professionalised services, and due to their necessary compliance with strict
regulatory measures on hygiene, the maintenance responsibilities are clearly divided and taken care of.
At the same time, a lack personal attributes, the need to some degree of adaptation to other users, as
well as the possible social frictions, and exposure to others’ germs still remain potential drawbacks here.
Shared use, in-between these two extremes is often inconvenient for it requires a certain degree of
adaptation to others, while occasional social frictions are inevitable. It is however more affordable and
resource efficient than individual use, and even the maintenance responsibilities get distributed.
However, it still comes with the added risk of exposure to other users’ germs. The key distinction to
make here between shared and collaborative/cooperative in this understanding is, that ‘shared’ stands
for an asset that is used by multiple parties, but is not formally different from its ‘individual’ counterpart,
only in how its use is organised. In contrast, the ‘institutional’ is not only different in its highly
choreographed use, but is altogether a formally different asset/space, purposely designed for
accommodating and mediating between multiple parties within. A hybrid condition would thus also
formally facilitate/mediate between multiple users, but without having to also imply rigid top-down
choreographed organisational arrangements, inheriting elements of each category, while being different
from all three.
Figure 1: Qualities of Institutional vs Individual Food Spaces. Source: The author
Such hybrid type of collaborative/cooperative urban food spaces when laid over the existing
landscape of typical non-hybrids (that is both atomised and institutional food spaces), could
meaningfully enrich and diversify the existing foodscapes of large urban populations. Such spaces
could ideally provide local community access to durable good infrastructure that relies on
renewable energy sources to operate, while it also assures safe and resilient use, as a kind of
modern extension of the traditional public drinking water fountains once proudly put on display
by cities. Such spaces could potentially also learn more explicitly from ‘fremium’ models,
whereby some fundamental elements and functionality of a product/service is provided free of
charges, while other ‘premium features come at a certain subscription rate or price. This
principle is in fact nothing new and is already used implicitly in many university and workplace
canteens, as well as has some tradition in small (outdoor) restaurants in some regions. Free
access to such spaces typically encompasses (in the case of canteens) one’s licence to enter, be
sheltered and sit at a table, to pick up a clean plate and cutlery (even to be used for consuming
items that were not necessarily purchased on site), to take tap water for drinking and often even
free access to microwave ovens and worktop surfaces to reheat meals and take care of minor
meal preparation/serving tasks. Beyond these, visitors/users can also typically purchase a range
of groceries, foods and cooked meals in these canteens. But would it indeed be a far extension
of such arrangements to also provide more space for simple cooking?
7
To potentially even get to
do that in groups? To be able to further share the meals cooked? To take part in the maintenance
responsibilities and earn some extra benefits though that? Furthermore, such hybrid food spaces
could be used for the safe storage of (sustainable/healthy/appropriate) foods; provide durable
reusable and/or fully compostable utensils reducing the need for disposable and single-use
packaging and utensils, provide adequate space for eating, as well as for the proper management
and sorting of waste streams, composting, cleaning and maintenance, in order to take care of
these tasks with high precision as well as energy and water efficiency. Beyond the above listed
direct functions however, such hybrid spaces could also become ideal urban platforms for
transparency, learning, community and safety. In short, they could help facilitate the building
and strengthening of urban food citizenship.
Conclusions
In order to realise any of the above described ambitions, the design of our food environments
has to mature into tackling the ambitious challenge of designing our hybrid foodscapes. This task
entails prototyping future visions that incorporate the latest critical learnings from green design
and green architecture, social innovation projects, as well as progressive technological
developments - each in equal measure, reflecting an appropriate, if general understanding of the
food system at large. As this chapter revisited, our shifting demographic conditions, growing
environmental vulnerabilities and sweeping technological changes together make it timelier than
ever to rethink yet again the conditions (physical forms, interfaces, and materialities) we create
to mediate between ourselves, our social realities, and the technological, infrastructural, and
ecological environment as it concerns urban food provisioning (whilst acknowledging of course,
that aspects of this inevitably stretch far beyond the specific scope of food).
Finally, returning to the design and future of the kitchen, one of the most relevant questions is,
perhaps, how we can reframe and extend the benefits and possibilities presented by the latest
technologies at hand. At present, we have several commercially-driven examples of IoT and
smart gadgets entering our private and domestic food spaces. This is most prevalent as smart
kitchen equipments enter mostly upmarket, isolated individual households (e.g., smart fridges),
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For recent/ongoing examples of such experimental collaborative urban food space projects see https://www.katafodor.com
as well as how giant technology corporations increasingly find their ways in support of these
same spaces (such as Amazon and Google, companies heavily investing into this as a new
frontier), as well as the earlier discussed new delivery enterprises. However, the question for the
future is, how these same technological capabilities can be put in service of easing collaboration
in-between these isolated household units without further cementing their corporate control.
That is to say, how they can help address the changed social conditions and environmental
burdens in combination, as would be more or less in line with the earlier quoted idealistic ethos
and original promise of the sharing economy: for cost and responsibility sharing without
exploitation, resource optimisation, information and knowledge exchange as well as mutual help.
Design at the end of the food system - in the realm of consumption -, shapes the entire food
system by the sheer power that urban food consumption holds over it, independent of whether
it intends to. Thus, acknowledging this relationship between the far ends of the food system is
crucial, and may lead us to see it as a path forward, a strategy. To put it another way: Design by
the end of the food system.
Research in this field must happen with cross-disciplinary expertise, utilising theory and practice,
learning by doing, trying and failing, and determinately prototyping new possibilities in iterative
ways. However, some of the related questions that need further research to explore in the future
include: First, a deeper qualitative understanding of the food provisioning practices of people
living in non-familial urban housing setups. That is to say, gaining a better understanding of how
the very condition of living outside family relations across age, gender, socio-economic and
cultural divides affects the consumer choices, food provisioning practices and the available
corresponding solutions in this heterogeneous demographic group. Whether there are any
common denominators between them, and if so, what they are. And conversely, if there are key
differences between them, as well as what dominant factors determine those possible
differences. Secondly, we will require more research and experimentation on the very practice
of ‘sharing’ itself, that is, the ways in which ‘sharing’ and ‘collaboration’ can be more effectively
accommodated by purposeful design decisions. Lastly, the above mentioned cross-disciplinary
expertise would call for more focus group-like engagements where multiple stakeholders get to
discuss together and identify the challenges of the idealistic design brief described in this chapter.
Such engagements could help locate where exactly the biggest practical pain points lie, as well
as help find more practical ways to facilitate future prototyping opportunities. Moreover, such
focused and collaborative encounters in themselves could help in bringing about a more cross-
siloed understanding of the food system’s challenges.
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